Komets capitalize on two-man power play to take 2-1 series lead

Komets left wing Gabriel Desjardins fires a one-timer on the Colorado goal to give Fort Wayne a 2-1 lead early in the third period Wednesday night. (By Blake Sebring of News-Sentinel.com)

Fort Wayne Komets coach Gary Graham has a belief that if a team scores a power-play goal on a 5-on-3 situation or kills off an opponents’ 5-on-3 advantage, the successful team ends up winning 90 percent of the time. Over Graham’s five years as the team’s boss, the theory has proven so accurate it should be named after him.

During a brilliant Game 3 of the ECHL’s Kelly Cup Western Conference Finals on Wednesday night, the Komets got a chance at a 5-on-3 with two Colorado penalties during the final minute of the second period. Colin Bowman was called for roughing during a post-whistle scrum, and then Matt Register got nailed for a high stick early during the penalty kill. All 6,089 Memorial Coliseum fans knew this power play could determine the game and give the winner an edge in a long series.

“This was the moment,” Graham said. “We didn’t put the pressure on them to necessarily score, but we had to get some momentum out of it.”

Knowing they had the two-man advantage for 1:11 to start the third period, the Komets power-play unit gathered with assistant coach Ben Boudreau during the intermission for some options. The Komets started with Trevor Cheek, Gabriel Desjardins, Marc-Olivier Roy up front and Cody Sol and Bobby Shea on defense to open the third period.

“Cody got a good shot off and I think they realized they wanted to take that away so having Cody out there opened up a couple of things,” Shea said.

Sol faked a blast and shoveled the puck over to Shea on the other point, and he whipped a pass from near the blue line to Roy on the goal line to the right of Colorado goaltender Joe Cannata.

“We wanted to get it low and try to hit Cheeker in the slot or Desi,” Roy said. “I was looking for Cheeker and Desi was wide-open so it was an easy play to make. It wasn’t a good play for me to shoot, so I waited for the defenseman to move his stick and then I went to Desi.”

As soon as Colorado defenseman Nicolas Meloche shifted his stick from in front pointing at Cannata toward the slot to take away the pass to Cheek, Roy whipped a pass across the crease to Desjardins who was wide open on the left wing. He one-timed the pass into the net before Cannata could get across to block it.

“That’s going to be a goal in any league,” defenseman Jason Binkley said. “It’s really nice that they went out and got that because it’s just a huge momentum boost. You could just feel everyone on the bench pick right up.”

And it also deflated the Eagles a bit. The Komets took advantage as Garrett Thompson set up Roy with a backhand pass for the game-winning goal less than three minutes later. The Komets led 3-1 on their way to a 4-2 decision.

The key to scoring with a two-man advantage is being patient to find a solid opening. Throwing a bunch of shots on the net usually doesn’t work as well as finding one excellent chance.

“You have to take your time,” Desjardins said. “We executed perfectly because you just want to take your time and it paid off.”

What’s always interesting about having a two-man advantage is everyone in the stands is always yelling “Shoot!”

“You obviously want to shoot, and people have to understand that there’s a time to shoot,” Shea said. “We’re out there for a reason. It’s kind of feels good when we score on a play like that when everybody is yelling shoot.”

And it always makes Graham feel good because his theory was right again.